I’m so thrilled to welcome Jamie Adams to the BookEnds family and to #TeamMoe! I was excited to see something music-related wind up in my inbox (but of course that also means I’m super picky as it’s something in my wheelhouse) but Jamie made me fall in love with her modern retelling of Phantom of the Opera. So enough from me, time to meet Jamie in her own words!!
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
Okay, so here’s the thing. I have an office in my house. It is a beautiful office, painted a lovely color, with a lot of very inspirational trinkets and pictures and space to plot via post-it all over the walls.
I haven’t written in there since last fall.
Somehow I keep ending up right back where I am now – at the end of my kitchen table, in an ergonomically agonizing too-short rock-hard dining room chair. I don’t know what it is, it’s just something about being out in the open that makes me feel like my thoughts have room to do their thing out here. I want to use my office. I plan to try using it again soon, so I can nest in and get in the zone hopefully. But as long as I can keep producing words, I guess I’ll be fine right here in the middle of everything.
And speaking of word production, my old MO was to write a couple days a week, when I had time and mental energy, and write maybe 5-8k in one go and then take a multitude of days off before doing it again.
I decided to make a change, so thus far in 2017 I have written every single day – 81 days and counting. My lowest word count was 7, and my highest was I think 3500 in a day? Or maybe it was 5000. I’m not sure, I just know I’m well over the 100,000 word mark for 2017 so far and therefore willing to tentatively conclude that this is a better system for me than sprints were.
I also gave up my aspirational nightmare of early morning writing and resigned myself to staying up so I could work in my best creative hours. I’m a night owl with a dayjob that starts at 7 am every weekday. Yes, to answer the unasked question, I am 90% composed of caffeine.
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
When I was trying to force myself to write in the wee hours of the morning (5 am) I used both candles and certain flavors of tea to get myself into the zone as quickly as possible. I’m a pretty fast writer, though, so sometimes I would light a candle just to be ready to blow it out 15 minutes later, and I would brew tea but then it would go cold while I typed, so now most of my rituals are music based. I will listen to the same song on repeat 100s of times while I work on a particular set of scenes, and then when the mood shifts I’ll hunt around until I find the next perfect song and listen to that one on repeat. I can almost never repeat a song from WIP to WIP because they’re too intimately tied to whatever I worked on while listening to it so exhaustively.
If I feel uninspired I’ll go on Pinterest and try to find pictures that evoke the right mood. I’ll also try to return to the thing that inspired the idea in the first place – the snippet of video, the painting, or the note I wrote myself when I first got the nugget of story. I also text one or two friends frantically while I’m trying to sort out plot points. Half the time they don’t even have to answer me, it’s just the act of describing what I think could happen that loosens my brain up enough to get somewhere. I’ve also started doing this on paper, freewriting about the book and asking myself my big questions so I can see it all laid out on the page.
I always plot in purple pen. That’s just how it works.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
“Catch” is definitely the right word! Most of my hobbies involve snacks – cooking, baking, eating. In what snippets of time I have left, I work full time as a social worker, do Pilates, play with color and lettering, volunteer through my church, and Netflix-as-a-verb. I’m also super great at napping, avoiding vegetables, killing spiders, quoting entire I Love Lucy episodes from memory, and losing at Yahtzee.
What’s the last book you read?
I’m currently reading BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE by Maggie Stiefvater. This is the third or fourth time I’ve read it and I’ll probably reread it periodically for half my life – she does such wondrous things with language and I’m fascinated by the games she plays with words from sentence level all the way up. I have yet to read the last book in this series, however…I don’t want it to be over.
Shoutout to ARCHIVIST WASP, which was my first read of 2017 and absolutely just swept me away on that glorious reader high we all crave!
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” – Madeleine L’Engle
Plotter or pantser?
Up until this year I would have said 100% pantser. I started noticing, though, that when I pantsed books it took months and months of rewrites to get anywhere near a feasible draft, and I threw hundreds of thousands of words out along the way. I’m totally willing to do that if it makes the book better, but I felt like there just HAD to be a better way…now I try not to start until I have at least a general framework for the book and a notion of the ending. I leave plenty of room for surprise and if I’m drafting and it goes off the rails, I let it – but knowing where I’m trying to get to creates just the right balance so I rarely have “writer’s block” anymore and don’t waste nearly so many words while also getting to enjoy the adventurous writing journey I love so much.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
Continuously enrich your life. Writing, and particularly querying, is an incredibly stressful activity. Everything takes longer than you think it should. You will fail, multiple times, and probably spectacularly. You’ll feel lost, you’ll feel broken, you’ll feel completely impotent and unremarkable and maybe even a little hopeless. Lots of times writing will feel more like work than fun, and you’ll wonder if that means you’re not a writer, or at least not a very good one. You might even walk away – once, or a bunch of times.
Fill your life with good things. Take your meds, drink lots of water, move your body. Sometimes choose naps. Even if you’re a VERY INTROVERTY INTROVERT like me, seek time with the people who fill up your soul. Go for long drives or long walks. Listen to lots of music, read all the books, draw poorly and dance terribly and clean your house. Find ways to serve other people. Practice gratitude. Courageously share your heart and acknowledge your needs, but stay humble and receptive to the gifts inherent in the lives with which yours intersects. Pursue peace. Hang on to hope.
Also, eat all the candy you can.